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Think Jillian Michaels is a loudmouth? Meet trainer Jackie Warner

Celebrity fitness pioneer Jackie Warner has transformed the workout world and garnered lots of fans along the way.

"First of all, women are attracted to strength. So I'm going to be attractive to women, straight or gay. And then there's enough femininity in me, we could go get our nails done. We could have great girl talk. We could go shopping. I love that too. So there's sisterhood and admiration for my career and my body. This body at 42 is not easy to have."

Jackie Warner delivers this statement about why straight women get "girl crushes" on her - a gay fitness star - as if reporting to a board about a company's annual results. One leg is crooked over the other as she sits across from me in a downtown Toronto café. A hand is on her hip. No smile. She shruggingly accepts the idea of her sexual attractiveness as though she has lived with it so long, it's as normal as the oatmeal she eats every morning.

She treats her ego like just another body part she has worked hard to tone and is eager to show off. She is not interested in making any apology for the controversy that shut down her popular reality show, Work Out, which followed her behind-the-scenes life in her Los Angeles gym - including her love life. In 2008, during the third season on Bravo, she was portrayed as having criticized the physique (okay, the breasts) of Jamie Eason, a fitness model and breast-cancer survivor who worked out at Ms. Warner's gym. Gatorade dropped their sponsorship of the show. Bravo subsequently cancelled it.

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Now, with a new reality show on Bravo, Thintervention, a knockoff of NBC's The Biggest Loser, she is making a comeback, doing the publicity rounds to promote the show and her line of workout DVDs.

Not that she thinks she had anything to overcome.

"My image is not damaged," she retorts, scowling from beneath her baseball cap, when asked if she thought carefully about how to resurrect her image. "I don't know if you know about me in America." She sits back, a vision of casual disregard in her hoodie, cotton pants and running shoes.

"But in America, I'm the top third trainer. I'm working with Sears right now. I had a bestselling book. Fifteen weeks on The New York Times bestseller list," she says, referring to her self-improvement guide This Is Why You're Fat (And How to Get Thin Forever): Eat More, Cheat More, Lose More - and Keep the Weight Off.

"I have another two-book deal now. I've got four DVDs that are No. 1 wherever they sell. I am in magazines four times a month every single month consecutively," she says, pausing to take a breath. "My image is not damaged."

She blames the show-canning on a producer "who disliked me very much" and the absence of a trusted executive at Bravo who was on maternity leave. "I had no control of editing or anything" she protests. Nevertheless, she pitched the network on Thintervention. "I said if I ever do another show with you I have to executive produce it and edit it."

Shifting in her chair, waiting for the next question with an impish look on her face, she drinks her chamomile tea like it's a shot of whisky. What does she feel when people accuse her of being narcissistic?

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"There's a big difference between narcissism and egocentricity. I am not a narcissist at all but I am egocentric. I've always created a world where everyone and everything revolves around me." Which accounts for her sexuality, she confesses languidly, adding that she is newly single again. "I can have no make-up on and my hair is a mess," she says, flicking at her blond wispy hair under her hat. "And I will have five people hit on me. It's about inner energy."

She began life in Ohio with a troubled childhood. Her parents were both mentally ill, she says; her father committed suicide when she was 18. She set off to Los Angeles to study fashion but quit when she realized she wasn't passionate about it. Next came a series of odd jobs - working in a boiler room, selling aluminum siding door to door, marketing for a cellular company, acting as an assistant audience co-ordinator for the briefly popular Susan Powter Show and writing scripts for Warner Bros. At 30, she wanted a career change and took up fitness training when friends suggested she would be good at it.

"If you look at my bio, you'll see I made a million by 21, lost it, made it again, made it and lost it three times. Now I'm keeping it," she offers in her blasé manner. "It's not luck. It's what I have created for myself" she says of her success. She charges $400 (U.S.) an hour to exercise with celebrities, none of whom she will name. (She currently rents a Malibu house for $7,500 a month to be near a "very famous" client whom she trains five times a week.)

The hard lesson of the Work Out fiasco was to not divulge too much about her private life, she offers. "If anything, I've learned to be a little more careful with myself and a little more guarded and professional."

A few seconds later, I ask if she's still eager to have children, something she discussed at length on Work Out. "Oh yes, of course. My doctor says I have the uterus of a 28-year-old."

Great.

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About the Author
Life columnist

Sarah Hampson is an award-winning journalist whose work started appearing in The Globe and Mail in 1998, when she was invited to write a column. Since 1993, when she began her career in journalism, she had been writing for all of Canada's major magazines, including Toronto Life, Saturday Night (now defunct), Chatelaine, Report on Business and Canadian Art, among others. More

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